It is difficult, sometimes, to pinpoint the exact cause of the depressive pessimism that it the mood music of 2020. Is it Covid-19? Or is it the government’s strange inability to collect and publish statistics on it? Or their tendency to blame others for problems rather than solving them? Is it that nagging sense that while the way contracts are being handed out might not be corrupt technically, it’s hard to avoid the whiff of something a bit off?

Is it the incompetence of the handling of A-level results? Or is it the bizarre situation where we’ll get worked up about a handful of people braving the Channel in a dinghy because they, bizarrely, think that life will be better here than any other European country? Or maybe it’s the utterly surreal suggestion by Priti Patel that they are trying to escape French intolerance?

I have started wondering if, actually, it’s because of all the polarisation it’s the one between optimism and pessimism that is most profound. It’s hard to imagine how making ourselves economically weaker while stoking intolerance is a cause for optimism but, when packaged up with terms like ‘freedom’ and ‘control’, it seems that even a government that’s equal parts ideology and incompetence can provide enough of the population with hope that it can dominate a broken electoral system like first-past-the-post.

The difficulty is that there is a finite capacity for pessimism and outrage. So, taking the A-level results, while there is so much focus on young people missing out their Oxbridge places there is hardly any media attention given to those elsewhere on the spectrum such as those who will miss out on a university place entirely. Those for whom the downgrading doesn’t mean the difference between a prestigious university education and slightly less prestigious university education but, instead, is a set-back that will last, with a huge economic cost, for the rest of their lives.

Or, looking beyond this, year, the fact that the algorithms have simply highlighted (and perhaps amplified) an annual inequality that downgrades the potential of children from deprived areas every single year of their education. Surely that is where the outrage should be: by limiting their potential we hold back the whole country.

I’m obviously one of the 55% or so that finds little cause for optimism in the UK. Perhaps the biggest cause of pessimism is that I don’t really expect the government to do anything to appeal to me, why should it? There is no need for consensus building when it can achieve electoral success by just appealing to its base.

Once upon a time politics was about hope and optimism. Remember that Obama poster? Perhaps that is an analogy, something that started positively but ended in disappointment and court battles. But politics was about hope. From Attlee’s ‘Face the Future’ manifesto in 1945, Thatcher in 1979 exhorting people to vote for a ‘better life’, Blair in 1997 offering the country a ‘new life’. Even May’s shambolic 2017 election, despite the comically memorable ‘Strong and Stable’, was under a manifesto entitled ‘Forward, Together’. The consistent theme is that, as a country, things can be better. And now…?

If there could be a more visceral image of a government destroying hope than downgrading the exam results of thousands and thousands of young people, mostly from less affluent areas I do not want to know what it is. Can we really take four more years of it?

I don’t have any pictures of attractive young girls celebrating their results. Which partly explains why The Daily Telegraph stubbornly remains better read than this blog. But congratulations to all those celebrating today, and commiserations to those who are not.

I’ll hold my own counsel on whether exams are getting easier. But today has made me realise that I am getting older.

Most people getting their results today were born in the year I picked up mine. In my day it was a trip to the school to collect a slip of paper (which would only be handed over if you returned any borrowed text-books that were out against your name) and then followed by a 12 hour binge drinking session. Although I think technically binge drinking wasn’t invented until this century.

Today, I have my house to myself – my wife and child have visiting her sister’s and staying until tomorrow. Rather than join celebrating students today I’m faced with difficult decisions. Having soul control over what goes on the TV or into the DVD player is troubling me (although it will almost definitely be something with ‘Star’ in the title, but whether it’s set at the final frontier or a galaxy far, far away is a harder choice).

What is causing me less trouble is whether I have a drink. I didn’t just think about a glass or two of wine (or maybe something gin based) but also about a fuzzy head in the morning and how it would affect my sleep. Thinking about hangover consequences is one thing, but when I’m thinking about a good night’s sleep as part of the calculation I’m clearly over the hill.

I hope such calculations do not trouble any of today’s students for a few years yet.

Unlike most newspaper editors I don’t have a photo of attractive young A level students receiving their results but Wandsworth’s schools managed some great results this year.

The provisional results show an overall A-E pass rate of 97.3% and overall A-C passes of 74.7%. A superb result for an inner London authority.

Some schools showed particularly good improvements, Southfields improved by 13.3% and Battersea Park by 10.6%.

Congratulations to all the teachers, parents and – most importantly – students involved.